Why Dartmouth cannot be saved

The Dartmouth Review, a publication with a proud conservative tradition, recently produced a list of “what we need from President Hanlon,” the College’s new president. It included items like restoring pre-matriculation AP credits, improving the pricing system used by the dining services, pushing back against the town police, ending the ban on kegs, doing a better job of monitoring of frat parties, and so forth.

The list contained no suggestions relating directly to the improvement of academic instruction. In particular, there was nothing about overcoming the leftist rot that has spread through many of the humanities department.

For example, nothing in the Review’s agenda would help students (some of whom I know) who would have liked to major in English because they love literature, but shied away for fear that they couldn’t find enough English courses that treat literature seriously. Nothing in the agenda would have saved my daughter, who wanted to study American-Jewish literature, from the jargon-riddled professor of that subject whose opening lecture, a combination of the nonsensical and the incomprehensible, chased her away. And nothing in the agenda would produce progress in this regard by diversifying the ideological composition of the hard-left dominated faculty.

In a sense, the Review is right not to go there. We cannot expect Phil Hanlon to march into Sanborn and demand that the English department begin treating literature seriously, rather than as a springboard for the political or personal agenda of particular professors. Jim Kim said that when a new president concerns himself with the nature of instruction, he commits a “rookie mistake.” When any college president challenges the leftist nature of instruction, he commits a fatal mistake.

The Review’s wish-list should thus be viewed as the final proof that Dartmouth is lost. The College probably will be marginally better under Hanlon than it was under Kim. And it will remain an institution that, by virtue of its past, will be worthy of the love of alums of a certain age. It will also, considering that nearly all of its competitors suffer from the same underlying flaw, be a college we can send our children to, depending on their options.

But it will not, in the foreseeable future, be an institution worthy of our support.

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